The use and usefulness of carbon labelling food: A policy perspective from a survey of UK supermarket shoppers
Both the process of carbon footprinting and carbon labelling of food products are currently voluntary in the UK. Both processes derive from the UK’s policy for sustainable development and in particular, the UK’s Framework for Environmental Behaviours that strongly advocates a social marketing approach towards behavioural change. This paper examines whether carbon footprinting and labelling food products, borne from an overarching policy imperative to decarbonise food systems, is a tool that will actively facilitate consumers to make ‘greener’ purchasing decisions and whether this is a sensible way of trying to achieve to a low carbon future. We do so by drawing from a survey exploring purchasing habits and perceptions in relation to various sustainability credentials of food products and particularly ‘carbon’, using a combination of descriptive and cluster analysis. The data, from 428 UK supermarket shoppers, reveals that whilst consumer demand is relatively strong for carbon labels with a stated preference rate of 72%, confusion in interpreting and understanding labels is correspondingly high at a total of 89%, primarily as a result of poor communication and market proliferation. Three statistically distinct clusters were produced from the cluster analysis, representing taxonomies of consumers with quite different attitudes to carbon and other wider sustainability issues. Whilst the majority of consumers are likely to react positively to further carbon labelling of food products, this in itself is unlikely to drive much change in food systems. As such, the data imply that a concerted policy drive to decarbonise food systems via voluntary carbon footprinting and labelling policy initiatives is limited by a fragmented and haphazard market approach where retailers are being careful not to disaffect certain products by labelling others within the same category. Consumers may want to make choices based on the carbon footprint of products but do not feel empowered to do so and relying on consumer guilt is inappropriate. The paper concludes that the establishment of effective linkages between food policy and food market actors to drive a targeted and coherent carbon labelling policy is needed. This would provide consumers with the opportunity to make informed choices, especially within food product categories and negate the need for retailers to depend on the demand side of the supply chain to achieve carbon reduction targets.
If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.
References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- Kemp, Katherine & Insch, Andrea & Holdsworth, David K. & Knight, John G., 2010. "Food miles: Do UK consumers actually care?," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 35(6), pages 504-513, December.
- Heather Lovell & Harriet Bulkeley & Susan Owens, 2009. "Converging agendas? Energy and climate change policies in the UK," Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy, Pion Ltd, London, vol. 27(1), pages 90-109, February.
- Arimura, Toshi & Hibiki, Akira & Katayama, Hajime, 2007.
"Is a Voluntary Approach an Effective Environmental Policy Instrument? A Case for Environmental Management Systems,"
dp-07-31, Resources For the Future.
- Arimura, Toshi H. & Hibiki, Akira & Katayama, Hajime, 2008. "Is a voluntary approach an effective environmental policy instrument?: A case for environmental management systems," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 55(3), pages 281-295, May.
- Wallgren, Christine & Höjer, Mattias, 2009. "Eating energy--Identifying possibilities for reduced energy use in the future food supply system," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 37(12), pages 5803-5813, December.
When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:jfpoli:v:36:y:2011:i:6:p:815-822. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Shamier, Wendy)
If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.
If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.
If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.
Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.